This month the U.S. Census Bureau will release the apportionment and population numbers from the 2020 Census—data that will determine congressional representation for the next ten years. Collecting these numbers in the Bay Area was a monumental effort; they are the result of years-long collaborations between the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. United Way Bay Area is proud to have played a pivotal role, serving as the administrative backbone for regional efforts to get a complete and accurate count in the 2020 Census.
UWBA’s Bay Area Counts 2020 was a $3.7M regional census outreach initiative conducted in partnership with seven county governments and a coalition of funders. We provided grantmaking, regional coordination, data stewardship, and technical assistance to a network of trusted messenger organizations doing outreach in over 70 languages.
UWBA and our partners overcame significant hurdles to achieve strong results in the Bay Area. Shelter-in-place orders forced the cancellation of hundreds of in-person outreach activities right at the start of the counting operation. Shifting census timelines, local wildfires, the looming election, and national civil unrest all tested us and brought us closer together. Trusting and supporting our network’s dedication to the work as partners and fellow community-based organizations—not just as vendors or subcontractors—helped us make it through one of the most challenging census counts in our country’s history.
Our efforts were about reaching every person in the Bay Area, especially those who have been historically hard to count. One of our key goals was to increase the region’s census self-response rates, or SRR’s, in order to paint a complete and accurate portrait of our communities. Because everyone knows their own demographic information best, self-response is the most accurate method of census data collection.
The Bay Area’s final SRR’s speak for themselves. Our counties achieved four of the five highest SRR’s in the state, with a regional average more than 9% higher than the national SRR. Thanks to the creativity, tenacity, and resilience of everyone involved, and in spite of 2020’s immense challenges, even the Bay Area’s historically hardest to count census tracts reached their 2010 SRR’s.
UWBA is proud to have facilitated these efforts, and excited at the opportunity to sustain and grow this collaborative ecosystem of census partners for Census 2030 and the important work in the years between. Taking inspiration from the Census Legacies model, we are exploring ways to continue engaging with our census network through monthly emails and webinars that support other community and civic issues such as redistricting and COVID-19 vaccine outreach.
Community-based organizations, funders, civic groups, and government agencies are welcome to learn more and get involved: